China’s online education industry has grown consistently in recent years. With US$1.2 billion of global investments in edtech in 2016 and an expected 20% annual growth rate, the e-education market is expected to reach US$190 billion by 2019, according to iResearch. More than just a new trend or fashion, the digitalization of education in China is becoming a serious industry.
The perfect combination for online education
When we look at it closer, all the necessary conditions were met for the success of e-education in China. First, education has a central position in Chinese households with, for example, US$296 billion in education spending on preschool and primary education in 2016. Then, the rising income of the middle class and the end of the one-child policy are increasing an already high demand for education. Finally, the Chinese society has demonstrated a huge appetite for digital solutions. In 2017, with over 731 million internet users which account for more than 50% of the population, China became the largest online and mobile phone using population in the world. Driven by its tech giants, also known as “BAT” (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent), the online revolution is now impacting the education industry and is opening doors to new opportunities for universities, businesses and investors.
Livestream, MOOCs, and mobile apps
The shift from offline education services to online education services through livestreaming platforms is one of the main components of the e-education business. No longer requiring a blackboard or desks, a screen and an internet connection are enough. It allows education to reach new consumer segments and broaden the learner base. The Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), that blossomed in China in 2013, are a significant part of e-education services provided by companies. Along with firms like Xuetang X or TopU.com, Chinese universities have experience with foreign MOOCs and are localizing their own MOOCs to expand internationally, such as TsinghuaX on the edx platform.
Online education startups are benefiting from generous investments from big tech companies. Yuanfudao, an online tutor platform, raised US$120 million from the private equity firm Warburg Pincus and Tencent Holdings last year. The startup seems to have made a smart move by developing a mobile app to connect students to teachers through livestreaming. With more than 95% of the Chinese internet population using mobile devices, the online education traditionally concentrated in the PC format is progressively shifting to mobile devices. Another golden opportunity for startups!
VR, AR, and AI
China is already making big steps in the VR and AR industry. The market is expected to grow from US$520.8 million in 2016 to US$11.9 billion by 2021. The combination of huge investments, governmental support, and the multiplication of tech companies creates a favorable environment for fast growth. In education, more and more companies are exploring the new trend. For example, Huayu Education is developing open VR platform hardware, technology, and content. Gradually, VR tools for teachers are being introduced in some schools. Goldman Sachs predicts that the VR education market will have 15 million users by 2025 and it will generate US$700 million in revenue from educational software alone.
China is also bringing artificial intelligence (AI) into the classroom. With big data and AI, tech companies are providing new services including data analysis, learning management systems, and online and robotic assistance. Other trends like 3D printing are growing as well. Even as 3D technology is predominantly applied to the industrial field, the number of companies engaged in developing 3D software is increasing.
The Chinese digitalized education market has an untapped potential for the online education industry. An eager-to-learn new generation is challenging the traditional education setting with their PCs, tablets and smartphones.
Author: Michael Mutombo, CSOFT Content Writer, Shanghai
CSOFT Global Communications
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